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Using tech to build an efficient short term rental business

Running a vacation rental business can sometimes feel like you’re constantly going, constantly dodging obstacles that appear in your way. It’s difficult to feel that you can take a break – there’s always one more thing to do, or one more problem to solve.

The persistent stress that this causes can make a work-life balance feel out of reach. Plus, it makes it tricky to grow your business – if you feel that you’re barely afloat with your current properties, how are you supposed to think about adding more?

Well, one way to start would be to find a way that you’re not having to do everything yourself. If you can cut out manual, repetitive tasks, then suddenly you’ve got more energy and time to put into other areas. This is where vacation rental technology comes in.

Technology solutions support you in running a more efficient vacation rental business, and Touch Stay’s Queen of Guest Experience, Tyann Marcink, recently moderated a tech panel at the Short Term Rental Virtual Summit for Women. She spoke to tech pros about all the ways that short term rental tech solutions help holiday rental owners and managers – from digital guestbook apps and market data insights, to in-home tech solutions such as smart locks.

Guests on the panel included:

We’re going to draw on their expertise to explain exactly how holiday rental technology can help you to reclaim your sanity, and exactly where to start when building your tech stack.

How technology helps short term rental hosts & managers to streamline their workflow

The key way in which technology can support you is by helping you to achieve more efficient business operations. Instead of constantly jumping between different tasks, you’ll be able to plan out when and how everything needs to happen. You’ll even be able to stop doing some of those tasks, because a piece of software can do them for you.

Tech allows vacation rental hosts to automate their processes

This is the big one. Think about how much time it takes you to manually send out messages to every guest, or to edit your booking requirements on listing sites. There are solutions and automations that can take these tasks off your hands.

  • Create a series of message templates to respond to Airbnb enquiries much more quickly. Check out the templates we’ve created to help you share your Touch Stay digital guidebook with guests.
  • Find a service that facilitates communications between team members, so that you’re not the middleman. Slack has a free subscription option, for example
  • Use PriceLabs to automatically adjust your minimum nightly price requirements, to help you fill any single days that emerge between bookings.

There are a whole range of ways in which automating your processes stops you having to accomplish repetitive tasks, and frees you up to think about the bigger picture.

I don’t know a single manager, regardless of how many properties they manage, that doesn’t wear a thousand hats in one single day. A really good, effective piece of software, is going to give you that higher level overview and help you to stay organised, so you know where to focus your time on a day-to-day basis

– Jinnie Templin

Tyann’s Touch Stay digital guest welcome book helps her to streamline her workflow by answering guest questions before they even ask them. All the info her guests need is in her digital guidebook, and so they ask fewer questions. When they do ask a question, she’s able to send them a link to the relevant section of her guidebook, rather than typing out a whole response. Major time-saver!


Technology helps holiday let hosts to elevate their guest experience

As a small business, it’s the personal nature of your offering that sets you apart from larger property managers and hotels. There’s often a worry that greater automation leads to a less personal guest experience (something that we’ve considered before!)

However, technology can actually help you to improve your guest experience offering. Jinnie highlighted that the guest experience begins the moment that guests interact with you, and technology can help to make all of your interactions seamless:

  • Market research services help you to understand how you can stand out from the crowd and provide the best experience for your guests
  • Channel managers help you to ensure that your property is never double booked
  • Property management systems (PMS) automate your rental operations, so that everything from cleaning to invoices happens on time
  • Dynamic pricing tools automatically adjust your nightly rate to reflect the market, the season, etc., so that guests always get a fair price
  • Digital guest welcome books reduce the number of times your guests need to ask you questions by providing all the info they need on their device (plus, Touch Stay uses PWA technology to provide an optimised user experience for your guests!)
  • Smart house gadgets allow you to create a welcoming property environment, from temperature, to guest access, to lighting. Why not look into:
    • a noise/home monitoring system (check out our recommendations in this AMA)
    • a smart lock
    • a WiFi thermostat
  • WiFi marketing tools allow guests to log into the WiFi by simply inputting their email address

Your guests won’t come into direct contact with most of these, but they all work together to ensure that travellers find a fairly-priced, clean, secure property, with a smooth booking and arrival process.

So, these tools save you time by automating your processes, they enhance the guest experience, and many of them bring additional perks for you! For example, StayFi allows guests to log into WiFi without having to type out a long password, and collects all of their email addresses so that you can include them in your email marketing. A Touch Stay digital guidebook brings access to our Rock Stars Facebook group, where short term rental pros swap advice and ideas in a thriving online community.


LISTEN: to Episode 5 of The Guest Cast, where we consider how to strike a balance between technological efficiency and the human touch

How to start building your tech stack

So, we’ve covered how technology is going to help you save time for yourself, and provide a better experience for your short term rental guests. Now, where do you start?

Prioritise operational technology

It’s the operational tech that’s going to help you to streamline your processes and automate those tasks that take up a chunk of your day.

Think about the process that takes up most of your time. Is it:

  • cleaning?
  • organising bookings?
  • communicating with your team?
  • overseeing property maintenance?

Once you’ve determined which part of your operations is the most time-consuming, start looking for a tech home solution which will help you to step away from it.

Whilst Koryn agreed that operational tech was likely to be the foundation of your tech stack, she also cautioned the audience to really think about what they personally needed:

I think the one thing that every person here has to think about is, what is going to make the biggest impact on your business? If you live down the street from your rental, and you only work with one person, then the operations tech piece might not fit your specific needs.

As you scale your vacation rental business up, operational tech will undoubtedly become important as you look to build the most efficient business possible. But right now, it may not be the priority for you.

Craft an online brand presence

If you’re looking at scaling your business beyond 2-3 properties, then it might be that you prioritise building an online brand through a direct booking website.

A direct booking site is a core aspect of your digital marketing. On your own website, you have the freedom to showcase your property exactly as you want to. You can accompany descriptions and pictures with suggestions of what to do in the area, and an introduction to you as a property owner.

You also don’t have to pay commission to any online travel agency (OTA), such as Airbnb or Vrbo, so you and your guest both save money.

READ: how hosts can ace the holiday let marketing game for more digital marketing advice.

Understand the local holiday rental market

If you want to price and market your rental property successfully, you need to understand the market in your area.

  • Why do people stay in that area?
  • How much do they pay for a similar property?
  • What makes you stand out from other nearby properties?

There are services which can help you to understand the answers to these questions. They research the short term rental property market in localised areas, and analyse the data they collect.

For example, AirDNA provides short term rental research, Vrbo and Airbnb data, and dynamic pricing (meaning that they’ll automatically adjust your nightly rates to reflect the local market). PriceLabs offers dynamic pricing, market insights, and analysis of your booking trends.

Both services help you to understand the market around you to your advantage. You can understand how your property should be priced, and how you can up your game to become the most attractive short term rental option in your area.

Regardless of your local area, one of the best ways to ensure that you stand out is to communicate well from the very beginning of your guests’ stay. Offer them a polished digital guidebook whilst other properties are still sticking to unwieldy, unhygienic paper vacation home guest books.


Tammi Sims: the first piece of tech you should invest in

Tyann asked Tammi about the first piece of tech she’d invest in, if she were starting a vacation rental business from scratch right now. Tammi’s answer was simple: guest communications.

Tammi has always been a remote host, and she’s found that you can nurture a strong relationship with guests through remote communications, if you have the right tools.

Here’s where we step in to suggest a solution..! Touch Stay digital guidebooks are designed to facilitate strong guest communications. Whether you’re a remote host or not, guests are always some distance from you before they arrive at your property. That’s why you can send them your digital welcome book before they get there. They have all the practical info they need, along with a bunch of your local recommendations, before they even step foot in your property.

Prepared, informed guests are happy guests!


How tech helps holiday rental hosts to earn more repeat bookings

The best short term rental software can save you time and help your vacation rental business to run more efficiently. Plus, it can actually help you to see more repeat bookings! But how?

It all starts with a great guest experience

We’ve already talked above about the ways in which holiday rental software can improve your guests’ experience by:

  • creating a smooth booking process
  • supporting strong guest communications
  • establishing a welcoming, easy-to-access living environment

And this is what it all comes down to. If you can provide a wonderful stay for your guests, then they’ll want to come back.

Koryn noted that issues will come up occasionally, because nobody can avoid them altogether. When they do, handle them in a professional, timely manner. You’ll have guests reflecting on your strong communications and rapid problem-solving, rather than the issue itself.


Digital marketing nurtures repeat guests

Oliver, Aviva, and Jinnie all recommended digital marketing as one of the surest strategies for earning repeat bookings. They specifically mentioned setting up a direct booking site, which allows you to encourage guests to rebook (perhaps with a discount!) without either of you paying commission to a listing site.

During a guest’s stay, market your brand to them, so that they leave associating their stay with you, rather than with Airbnb, or Vrbo. Encourage them to follow you on social media, and to keep an eye out for your email newsletter. One of the best things about modern tech is that it allows us to stay in touch – keep in touch with your guests so that they continue to associate those memories with your brand.

Touch Stay digital guidebooks are white-labelled, giving you the freedom to use your own logo, fonts, pictures, and videos. All of your digital welcome book communications therefore help to reinforce your branding, and to secure it in your guest’s mind.


The panel’s favourite tech hacks

Tyann rounded the panel off by asking panellists about their favourite tech hack. What unusual ways have they found to make tech work for them?

  • Koryn prefers writing notes down, so she uses a tablet to write out her thoughts, and then emails them straight to her colleagues
  • Tammi uses Touch Stay digital guidebook to store and share a series of guest communication templates
  • Oliver uses Alexa to control the lighting and appliances in his properties. Post-it notes tell guests the commands they need to use
  • Aviva uses Alexa too! But for slightly different purposes – she uses it to have dance parties with her kids
  • Jaime has QR codes on her business cards, so that potential guests can simply scan them to be taken straight to her Airbnb listing
  • Tyann’s created a series of keyboard shortcuts on her phone and laptop, so that she doesn’t have to type out the phrases she uses most regularly

Touch Stay’s tech hack

At Touch Stay, we’ve hacked our own digital guidebooks! We originally created them with short-term rental hosts in mind, but we’ve since created guidebook templates for RV owners, glampsite & campsite managers, B&B owners, and even destination marketing organisations!

Our customers have also realised that there are a whole host of different ways they can use our guidebooks to organise and share information. From events guides and playbooks, to owner manuals, they’ve really shown their creativity. You can use a Touch Stay digital guidebook for all your information-sharing needs.

The tech available

Here’s a more detailed list of the tech solutions who were present on the panel, and what they can help you with, alongside our own partners.

  • TravelNet Solutions – a complete property management solution, encompassing a property management system, customer relationship management software, and digital marketing services
  • StayFi – vacation rental WiFi marketing, allows you to collect all of your guests’ emails for use in your digital marketing
  • PriceLabs – dynamic pricing tool and data solutions to help your property stay competitive in the local market
  • Breezeway – a property care, operations, and messaging platform that helps you to deliver a high-quality rental experience
  • AirDNA – a vacation rental data platform for hosts and investors, providing insights to help you keep ahead.
  • Touch Stay – that’s us! The digital guidebook specialists. We help you to save time and serve happier guests by communicating with them more efficiently.
  • OwnerRez – the booking management engine built by vacation rental owners, for vacation rental owners
  • BookingSync – property management software for everyone from the largest property managers, to individual vacation rental hosts
  • Anytime Booking – experts in online booking management and sales channel integrations for the outdoor holiday market
  • ACT Studios – photography and digital marketing specialists for holiday let owners based in the UK
  • Revyoos – review aggregator for short-term rentals, so that you have all your reviews in one place
  • iGMS – vacation rental software that helps hosts effectively handle day-to-day short-term rental management tasks

There’s a whole assortment of holiday rental tech solutions out there. One thing we can guarantee is that, whatever challenges you’re facing, there’ll be a service that can help you through.

At Touch Stay, we know that the key way to earn great reviews, and lots of repeat guests, is to provide a stellar guest experience. For us, this starts with guest communication. Touch Stay digital guidebooks help you to efficiently communicate with guests through their entire journey with you.

Provide crucial practical info, such as how to find and access your property, alongside your insider knowledge of the local area. Tell guests about the best spots to catch the sunset, or to find a delicious cocktail. Send all this info to them before they even arrive at your property, so that they feel prepared and excited.

Use deep links to answer questions by directing guests straight to the relevant guidebook section. Attach QR codes to tricky appliances to send guests straight to the right instructions.

Save time for yourself, and see happier guests! Want to find out more? Discover exactly how Touch Stay digital guestbooks support efficient short term rental businesses.